Company bosses are urging Theresa May to provide more clarity on a possible new customs union and future immigration rules, as her Cabinet prepares to hold talks about the UK’s post-Brexit economy.
In a letter to the Prime Minister seen by Sky News, the Institute of Directors (IoD) said it was seeking answers to 12 questions relating to the UK’s future trading relationship with the European Union.
Stephen Martin, the IoD director-general, told Mrs May that more clarity “would be immensely helpful… for example, knowing whether the Government plans to negotiate any new customs union with the EU is important for many firms who have little to no knowledge of dealing with rules of origin”.
He added that while IoD members were “relieved to see that pragmatism has come out on top” in securing an agreement to move negotiations forward with the EU, there remained enormous uncertainty about future arrangements.
Image: Protests in Northern Ireland about the possible effect of Brexit on the north-south border
“IoD members will be particularly heartened to hear the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU assert that the chances of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit have fallen dramatically,” Mr Martin wrote in the letter, which was copied to the Chancellor, as well as the Brexit and Business Secretaries.
“As Cabinet meets tomorrow, the business community now needs to see the government engaging collectively with the substance of our future trading relationship.”
Image: The Prime Minister will meet her Cabinet on Tuesday to discuss post-Brexit trade deals.
The list of questions outlined by the IoD underlines the extent of ongoing business anxiety about the terms of Brexit.
They spanned subjects ranging from a new customs union, whether ministers will pursue continued membership of the EU’s VAT area, and the policing of future immigration.
Mr Martin also asked “what preparation is being put in place to build the infrastructure needed to manage immigration and customs at our ports and borders, as well as improve the Government’s migration monitoring data after we leave”.
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The IoD’s letter addresses many of the technical questions being raised by private sector executives as they try to plan for the period after transitional arrangements come to an end.
Mrs May said on Monday that while the UK would not be a member of the EU single market or customs union after it leaves in 2019, she would attempt to strike new trade deals before a transition period was over.